Mike Kenny, music and lyrics by Mike Kenny and Ivan Stott
West Yorkshire Playhouse
Monday matinee and the theatre is full. Age range 2 years to 90... and all absorbed. Delighted, as they follow the traditional story from a very welcome new viewpoint. This Cinderella is a rat's tale. And this reviewer, his 8 years old grandson and the rest of the audience are knocked out. Not just by the story, the acting, the direction and design and wardrobe and music and lighting - but by all that plus a fabulous sense of commitment and a burgeoning recognition of theatrical quality.
It's set on a traverse stage and the preset has five glorious rats mucking about in a rattish sort of way. Played by Adam Baxter, Esther Biddle, Sarah Goddard, Simon Kerigan and all purpose music man Ivan Stott, the rats tell us they are bereft, the household has gone, all of 'em.
Then the rats show us how it came about.. and we are into the old old story of cruel stepmother, ineffective loving dad, ugly sisters and as fine and sympathetic a Cinderella as you'd meet in a lifetime of pantomimes. Actor Sophie McShera has a wonderful innocence that can lift the audience and also be heartbreaking. The rest of the cast double and triple with bravura, McShera is the steady flame at the centre of this joyful production.
Kenny and McIntyre have worked together many times and her we see the partnership hit the bulls eye. This Cinderella has driven the traditional pantomime to stellar heights that are matched for me, after far too many Christmases, only by the great Ken Campbell's Old King Cole.
It is a show that engages the whole audience and is crammed with laughter. And it's mirth that hath no bitter springs. More than that, this show stimulates thought, sympathy, empathy. And yet more, for me and many other adults and kids, two eye-prickling moments: one of pathos, the other a reaction to the sheer, honourable rightness of its verminous values as expressed throughout, then captured in a brilliant finale. Just go see it!
Running until 23rd January 2010
Reviewer: Ray Brown